Indonesia, fair play to them, recognise all significant days in the calendar. Muslim days of significance, obviously, as Indonesia is 80% Muslim and home to the largest Muslim community in the world, along with Hindu, Buddhism, Catholicism, All –Irelands, County Finals, come one, come all.
So I wasn’t surprised when I learned that Good Friday was recognised in Indonesia. I was however, interested that in light of this fact, Easter Sunday wasn’t. So the day that Christ died on the cross is acknowledged but not the day he rose from the dead. I refuse to see this as some kind of back-handed compliment on the part of the Muslim community and prefer instead to assume that they are just difficult to impress. Resurrection may be not be seen as such the fete to others as it does to us Catholics. Who are indeed so impressed that we gorge on chocolate eggs as a mark of acknowledgment for our risen Lord, or is it just a coincidence that Easter Sunday happens to fall on the day that we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Either way Good Friday is no celebration and even the meekest Catholics among us, will accept that Good Friday is a black day for Catholics.
Woe betide those who take a drink or eat a beef burger on this day. Heartless are those who deliberately hold a gathering at their house because the pubs are closed and downright well-connected are those that find an establishment that will open the side door and serve a pint.
In Ireland although Good Friday is not a public holiday, it is a Church holiday and all pubs and many restaurants are closed. Traditionally it is a sedate day, a day for worship where the devout attend mass services at 3.p.m. and take part in the extended mass, and recall the crucifixion. Not the same re-enactment that is carried out in other parts of the world where some guy gets nailed to a wooden cross, but a strong narrative from the pulpit that resonates with the congregation none the less. Good Friday was the turning point for Lent, it was nearly over, you just had Easter Saturday to pass and you’d be back to having sugar in your tea.
The pubs being closed and the sale of alcohol being banned is a huge mark of respect and in general we adopt a faux gloom if you like, to show sympathy and thanks for Christ’s grand gesture to us.
Reassuring as it is to know that others around the world and from different religions are aware of how Jesus was crucified on the cross and admirable as it is for the Indonesian powers that be, to declare Good Friday a public holiday in honour of same, the honour is not what it could be.
Firstly there is no abstinence from food, no pub closures and certainly no air of gloom, manufactured or otherwise. Instead the Indonesians, take the public holiday, keep the bars and restaurants open and carry on regardless. So I carried out a survey among the people of the Indonesia, c. 4 people (so based on my personal survey, 1 person represents =c.5.5 million people) and I asked them what ‘Good Friday’ meant to them. The results were staggering, two of the four, i.e. representative of 11 million people believed that Christ wasn’t actually crucified, that he was taken down and replaced by someone else, they believed it to be a stunt, a fully staged act, amazing, but certainly explains that lack of awe for the subsequent resurrection. One in four, i.e. 5.5 million believed that yes, Good Friday is indeed in commemoration of the death of Jesus which but the day now offers the Muslim Community a public holiday for what has become a general day for the family to holiday.
The remaining 5.5 million of the Indonesian community scratched their heads and thought that every Friday was a Good Friday and as I look around to see bars, restaurants and shopping malls bursting at the seams for yet another public holiday in Indonesia, I have to agree, it is a Good Friday, just like all Fridays in Jakarta.